Handle for a Han Girl
Don’t ask me her birth name,
For I never heard it
Till many years later – too late to take root.
No, she was called Clover:
So terribly English,
So strangely old-fashioned, and strangely un-cute.
And pure Anglo-Saxon – her name, but not her –
No, she was as Chinese as any I’ve met,
With excellent English and excellent manners,
Yet bearing the name that was all Somerset.
And as for her birth name,
I knew that she had one,
But she never told me, and I never asked.
And had I been told it,
I’d only be baffled
By which was her first name, and which was her last.
So she plucked a new one, did Clover, a new name –
I don’t know why this name, but this name is she.
She chose it at high school, I gather – they all did,
Her classmates and Clover, they chose who to be.
She still has her birth name,
She hasn’t erased it,
She still has her birth name for using back home –
But here she is Clover
For living in London,
(Though maybe she’s Cleo when living in Rome).
We in the West are too jealous of birth names,
We get what we get, and we lump what we got,
Then sneer at the actors and writers for daring –
But Clover is Clover because…well, why not ?